Only a few people ever wonder how the process of divorce developed over time. Most of us who came to the solution that their marriages should stop being interested in what they need to do with it according to current laws. But was it always as easy as today? Have people had the chance to dissolve their marriages without contesting and explaining their reasons as they can now? In this post, we’ll try to draw the evolution of divorce in the last decades and centuries to see what this process was about.
When was divorce legalized?
The history of divorce dates back to the 19th century when people in the USA started to dissolve their marriages. Although it was legal then, only a few couples broke up their marital bonds: divorces were considered to be a shame at that time. Also, it was hard for partners to survive on their own and that’s why the majority of marriages were kept. An economic factor in relationships played an important role in the 19th century.
In the USA, permission to get divorced was provided to couples in 1857. At that time, women who wanted to leave their men legally could do that in case their husbands cheated on them. Besides that, these poor wives had to prove their men’s infidelity and needed to provide additional faults done, e.g. rape, cruelty, incest, etc.
In 1923, women could submit a petition for divorce due to adultery without the mentioned reasons. Yet they still had to prove that their husbands cheated on them. 14 years later, the other reasons for dissolving marriages were introduced. They included alcohol abuse, abundance, and insanity.
As you can see, getting rid of the relationships that don’t bring happiness was not as easy as it is now. So, how did we get to have a no-fault simple divorce?
When did no-fault divorce start?
In 1969, Ronald Reagan did a great job for couples all over the USA: he enacted the new divorce bill that allowed people to get divorced without disclosing the reasons for it. Thus, men and women didn’t need to blame each other for their marriages failing anymore. All they needed to do was express their wish to dissolve a marriage and file papers to the court to get a cheap divorce.
Later, Ronald Reagan regretted the decision to allow no-fault divorces. After the other states followed the example of California, citizens of all of them were allowed to get no-fault marriage dissolutions by 1975. Women got the chance to finally stop the relationships that made them suffer for years. However, the policymakers started to notice the negativity of this decision: it was the increase in divorce rates.
How have divorce rates changed over time?
Before 1960, the number of divorces in the USA was quite low: 9.2% per 1000 married ladies. With the enacting of a no-fault divorce bill, the number of divorces increased to 22.6% per 1000 married women in 1980. The number of couples that split up more than doubled in these two decades, which had its positive and negative features.
The main negative thing about couples divorcing was the drop in childbirth and the decrease in the kids’ psychological well-being. Many kids found themselves guilty of their parents’ break-up, and studies showed that even re-marriage of either of their parents didn’t help to heal them. Besides this, kids who grew up in split families dropped out of high school in 31% cases while those who grew up in families who lived together in 13%. Thus, we can conclude that the growth in marriage dissolutions had a bad impact on children.
At the same time, the positive thing about the growing number of divorces was the women’s relief from abuse and neglect. Now that women didn’t have to explain and prove the harm done to them as a ground for a divorce, they managed to split up with their husbands easier. As a result, many of them got a chance to live happily after moving on from toxic relationships and started to grow personally and professionally.
All in all, the changes in the divorce process were the factor that influenced not only the lives of certain couples but the American society as a whole. Now, no one expects women to tolerate abuse and pain in unhappy marriages: instead, they are encouraged to get out of bad relationships as fast as possible. For this purpose, the procedure of divorce has been simplified. Divorce documents can be filled out online and submitted to the court in a day or two. The whole divorce process can be finalized in a few weeks or months in the majority of the states.